Australia is set to achieve its renewable energy target for 2020 as a jump in the uptake of large scale solar projects drives growth in renewables, a senior regulatory official says.
The federal government has committed to generating 23.5 per cent of the country’s power, or about 33,000 gigawatt hours, from renewables by 2020.
Industry experts estimated in 2015 that Australia would need to commit to building 6,000 megawatts of new renewables capacity by 2018 in order to achieve the target.
As of November 1, about 5,589 MW of large scale renewable energy projects had been formally announced, Clean Energy Regulator executive general manager Mark Williamson said on Tuesday.
“The large scale renewable energy target is within reach. Utility scale solar has been the big surprise in the pipeline,” he said on the sidelines of a large-scale solar and storage conference in Sydney.
Out of this, nearly 3,503 MW of capacity is already under construction.
Utility-scale solar projects have played an enormous role in this increase, accounting for 2,349 MW, or about 42 per cent, of the formally announced projects.
“At the utilities scale, it is simply that the cost of solar has come down to compete with wind, and the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) has provided a lot of transitional support to be able to drive down the deployment costs,” he said.
The current year could see the biggest addition in solar capacity, likely to exceed the record 1,035 MW capacity that was installed in 2012.
Mr Williamson expects further growth in 2018 as costs fall further, encouraging more uptake of solar.
The news comes amid the lingering debate on policy uncertainty in Australia’s electricity sector, with the government outlining a new National Energy Guarantee (NEG) policy.
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